Yesterday we covered 5 questions to ask on a school visit. These next 5 questions will continue to help you determine which school is the best fit for your child. Hopefully this school tour will be an excellent supplement for the research you do on Colorado School Grades!
6. What grade did your school receive on Colorado School Grades? Could you explain why the school received this grade?
While there is no guarantee that you’ll like the answer you get to this question, it will give school leaders or teachers the opportunity to explain why their test scores are low or why the school only has a 65% graduation rate. Use your best judgment while listening – if it seems like the principal is using excuses to explain away poor academics, maybe this isn’t the best school for you and your student. However, if the principal points out things like transitioning to a new model of teaching or mentions concrete steps that she and the school are taking to improve issues like low test scores or poor attendance, it could be the right place for your student.
7. As a parent, how could I get involved at this school?
Can I volunteer in my child’s classroom? Is there a PTA or a different parent group that I can get involved in? What about the school accountability committee? Getting involved with your child’s school can be a great way to see what is really happening in a school and give you the chance to build authentic relationships with your child’s teachers and school leaders. Maybe the school drama director is looking for set builders or costume designers, or maybe the fourth grade needs chaperones for its upcoming trip to the science and nature museum – just ask what you can do to help!
8. What is your grading policy (letter grades or proficiency levels, etc.)?
There are all sorts of grading policies being adopted in the education world today so be sure to ask about what the school uses. Do they use the classic A-F scale or do they use a 1-4 scale to assess proficiency on certain standards? How are grades communicated to students? What about parents?
9. What sorts of extracurricular activities and/or elective courses are offered?
Particularly as students get older, make sure the school offers plenty of courses and after school activities that interest your child. What sports are offered? Art and music classes or clubs? Are there costs associated with any of these activities? Are the after-school activities different than what is offered during the normal school day, or will your student just do the same thing over and over again?
10. How do you feel when you are in the school (welcomed, safe, etc.)? If you have an older child, how did he/she feel about the school?
Feeling welcome and safe in a school can have a great impact on your child’s learning. Ask about the school’s anti-bullying policies (even better, see if this is a required professional development session for teachers) and look for signs of inclusivity on the walls of the school. Reflect on what happened the moment you walked into the building – were you able to just roam the school without anyone questioning you, or were you immediately greeted by a secretary or security guard who asked for identification and had you sign in at the office?
Be sure to ask for materials like school handbooks, class schedules, parent newsletters, and work samples before you leave!